President-elect Trump has made it clear that he disapproves of how the U.S. defense department has overpaid for weapons.
These sentiments mimic those of military reformers, who have complained that the Pentagon’s procurement of weapons involves too many delays and outrageous costs.
“To say the least, we are a bit stunned, albeit pleasantly so,” said Thomas P. Christie, a former top weapons tester at the Pentagon who advocates for more cost-effective big weapons systems
Trump plans to put the $619 billion defense budget this year to much better use. On December 21, he met with the senior officers who will be managing the budget
Before the meeting, Trump spoke out about his disapproval of a few of the ongoing disasters by the current weapon procurement team at the defense department.
“Mr. Trump tweeted a cancellation warning to Boeing Co. about the long-term costs of two new Air Force One planes. Then he took on the costliest weapon system in U.S. history: the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. The procurement history of the joint strike fighter jet is so pocked with trouble that Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, has called it a “scandal and tragedy," writes The Washington Post.
“The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” tweeted Trump on Dec. 12. “Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.
Then, Trump met with Boeing's CEO about the F-18 Super Hornet as an alternative to the F-35.
But, Trump also said that the Boeing's Air Force One crafts's cost were out of control.
Trump has also implied that his Defense Secretary-nominee James N. Mattis will be making this a top priority of his.
Both, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing are at the top of the list of weapons contractors receiving the most funding from the Defense Department, according to Defense News.
Heading up the military reform movement is the Project On Government Oversight in Washington, an organization that exposes malpractice in the defense industry and offers less costly options.
“It’s refreshing to hear someone taking on the military-industrial-congressional complex this way, because this is something we haven’t seen for many, many, many years,” said Dan Grazier, who is encouraged by Trump's responses. “The fact that he’s able to at least get Boeing and Lockheed working to reduce cost, it’s a good shot across the bow. But there’s a big difference between words and action. He’s talking a really good game now. Now let’s see if he can actually translate it into action.”
But, the root of the problem is poor planning.
"Planners for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps were wildly off base when predicting its price and schedule. The $379 billion total acquisition cost is double their initial estimates. The military was supposed to be flying more than 1,000 F-35s by now but has received fewer than 200," writes The Washington Post. "In April, GAO examiners concluded that the F-35 may not be affordable because budget restraints limit yearly production, driving up per-plane costs. Soon, the Pentagon will need to spend more than $12 billion a year on procurement until 2038 to purchase 2,457 planes," writes The Washington Post.
So will Trump be able to reform this industry? Trump is being strategic about what he decides to focus on first and this is one of the areas he plans to pay attention to. It's about time because this has been overlooked for much too long by past presidents.
Editor's note: Mr. Trump seems to be setting up his battles well. It may be that he has more power now than after he takes office, at least as far as setting the national agenda.
Of course not all of this is the fault of the contractors. Milltary threats are tough to forecast and the long development times means weapons systems become obsolete within the development cycle. Better management is needed. perhaps Trump is tha man to bring it to the table.